The one major tool we have is information. We get our information based on the questions we ask, how information is gathered and how information is distributed.
Asking the right questions
Whenever I am speaking to a new or previous client, I begin by:
- Gathering the basic information about the program or event;
- Asking the client to clearly define the objectives and parting message;
- Asking where the program or event has been held before (if applicable), what worked and what did not work, and most importantly, why; and
- Finding out the demographics of the audience.
The answers to these questions guide me in finding the perfect program that is right for each group. Once, a client was working with another DMC for over six months and was not happy. They gave me a week to create the program and in the end, I was awarded the program. How? By asking the right questions and interpreting what the client had envisioned.
Asking the right questions of your vendor partners is vital. I was producing a conference in Toronto with 77 concurrent sessions a day, plus a trade show. Naturally, we were using every conceivable space in the hotel. I was in charge of scheduling all the programming and had attended the conference the year before to get a feel for the program, the attendees and observe how it was managed. One of the major issues with so many programs was the change over from banquets to and from classroom- or theatre-style seating. There was never enough time, it was sloppy and the program was continually running late. That was not going to happen on my watch.
When I returned to Toronto, I called up the convention services person in charge of the conference. I simply asked him “How much time would he like to change over rooms” so that I could schedule the programs. Note: he had been in the business for years. He is known for setting up convention services in North America. There was silence and then he said incredulously that this was the FIRST time he had ever been asked that! I was shocked as it just made sense to me to ask so that I allowed enough time for the hotel to do their job properly and the program to run on time. The entire conference ran on time, the hotel completed their tasks with no issues and the attendees’ evaluations were wonderful.
Lastly, sharing the information with all vendor partners is key to your success. I produced a theme dinner with a reception, assigned seating dinner and after party for 4,000 guests. I worked with 21 vendor companies and my production schedule was 35 pages. It was like a huge family working together. No one had any issues and this resulted in a very successful event. Like a large jigsaw puzzle, everyone saw where they fit into the larger picture. It’s important to have all vendors review and sign off on the final production schedule in order to have all the information and to prevent any misunderstandings on either side of the expectations and deliverables.
For example, one of the biggest issues with so many vendors and such a large footprint is access to the loading dock. The loading dock was available when I said it would be for each vendor so that they would not be frustrated and incurring extra labour charges. Why? I asked each vendor how much time they needed, what they needed and how long would it take for them to do their job properly. I scheduled everyone accordingly and it really was a great experience and a lot of fun. The right questions and answers were critical to producing the event.
Finally, it is the planner’s responsibility to all vendor partners to give them the information that will ensure they can do their best.
Information is your most importation tool. Use it wisely.